“Why You Stay When You Know You Should Leave”

I used to be very close to this girl named Stacy. Stacy was in a very committed relationship (at least on her side). She was dating a guy who was at the time a college sophomore, and she was only a junior in high school.

She used to brag about how he always told her how much he loved her, and how beautiful, and fit she was compared to all the other girls at his school. Being a high schooler, Stacy was beyond flattered by such menial remarks. She was head over heels in love with this guy and would literally drive all the way from San Jose to Cal-Poly, which was about a 3 hour drive, just to visit him.

On one of her visit’s she came down to surprise him without warning, but was in for a huge surprise herself. She walked into his dorm build, only to see a girl walk out of his own dorm room. Stacy was confused, hurt, and honestly didn’t want to believe what she had just witnessed. After interrogating the girl she found out that she, and her roommate were sleeping with Stacy’s boyfriend. Stacy was never a violent person, but as she expressed  to me how she wanted to murder the two girls there and then.

She did not end up breaking up with her boyfriend, but instead internalized the cheating as her own fault. She became obsessed with the girls that he had cheated with, and began to compare herself to them, mostly the “prettier” of the two. Stacy started running 3-5 miles every other day, while starving herself in order to stay in “better shape” than the girl who had slept with her boyfriend. She would always ask me if she was skinnier, prettier, more attractive than the other girl; no longer prioritizing her own value and worth.

At the time being I had no way of comprehending or justifying why exactly it was that Stacy not only stayed with that guy, but blamed herself for his volatile actions. It was something that puzzled me for years; especially since the older I got the more I saw it around me.

Then it happened to me.

I stayed in a relationship with a cheater. My ex girlfriend, who was obviously not an ex at the time, was blatantly talking to her own ex and thought I didn’t know what was going on. I was fully aware of the situation, but did not fully see it as her own wrong doing; instead I internalized it.

And my own understanding came from analyzing my own thought process at the time. These thoughts sounded something like this.

  1. “We’ve been together for so long, I can’t just leave now”
  2. “She’s the best I can do?”
  3. “It was probably my fault, I just wasn’t good enough”
  4. “Maybe if I looked better, just worked out a little more she would find me attractive again.”
  5. “This will never happened, it was only a mistake”

Symptom Control:

Unfortunately Stacy and I’s stories are far too common within many modern  relationships. It usually turns out that the one who’s trust was breached will end up being the same one that blames their own faults and flaws as the reason behind an infidelity, or lack of respect from their significant other.

Once I began to realize that I actually had close to no confidence, I began to blame her for  diminishing my self-esteem. The reality of the situation was that my low self-esteem was there far before the relationship, it just showed itself once the cheating began to take place.

Every women, or man, I’ve come in contact with who had a positive view of themselves, all 3 of them, would never stay with a somebody that violated their trust and did not treat them with the up most respect. Yet I, like many others, stayed and did all I could to try to appear to be more appealing in her eyes.

In hind sight I could see that it was the lack of self-esteem that lead me to even think of myself as the problem, yet at the time begin I blamed it on my physical appearance and lack of monetary and biceptual gains.

This is because when we are in Stacy’s state of mind, a state where confidence is nowhere to be found, we will begin to internalize the actions of somebody who is mistreating us; and instead of leaving the situation we not only stay, but do everything in our power to prove our worth.

Like many of us Stacy began to try “improving” her own level of attractiveness in order for her boyfriend to stop cheating, instead of seeing that he was just an untrustworthy individual who would probably screw a hole in the ground. She was literally looking for love in all the wrong places; these places being everywhere but within herself.


For a Broken Bone

Much like a cold does not come from a lack of NyQuil, a cheater does not cheat because of a lack of their significant others physical presentation; a cheater cheaters because they lack commitment and loyalty. However, at a surface level it looks as if they violated our trust in order to get something that we were lacking; this is never true of a cheater.

A cheater will cheat regardless of how good their significant other treats them.

Now, think of Stacy’s working out as the band-aid, in which case the broken bone would be the wounded self-worth. How effective would this band-aid be in repairing a ruptured bone? This is the same logic that goes behind fixing a real internal problem with an external “none-solution”

How many times have you been in a situation where your partner has put forward no type of effort towards the relationship, I mean you literally might as well have been dating a tree stump; yet you began to exert more and more energy to try to make up for what was lacking on the other side?

The efforts we put towards fixing a certain aspect of a relationship are never the problem, but can still stop us from seeing the underlying issues.

Sadly enough we begin to exert this energy towards those things that have nothing to do with the reason why we are in such a predicament in the first place. We might do everything in our power to gain the attention of our “not so” significant other to in hopes of them no longer cheating on us, and becoming more attracted to us.

We become fixated on repairing our own outward self diagnosed “flaws” and neglect fixing our own broken bones.

Victims & Participants

It may seem like the person who cheated on you is a good person at heart and is capable of change, which they are,, but the fact of the matter is this frame of thought will leave you both in a cycle of heart-break, and infidelity.

Just like a drug addict will not stop doing drugs simply because you want them too, the same goes for a cheater. If you give the drug abuser money for rent, clothes, transportation or whatever it may be you might as well be buying them that eight ball of cocaine yourself. Staying with a cheater is the same as funding a drug addicts habit, it enabling their behavior.

If you truly want to help your partner see their own wrong doings then you must leave them, let them feel the weight of their actions; whether they learn from it or not will not be your problem.

Some people need to be loved from a distance, a very very long distance.

Staying with them however puts you in a place where you can no longer claim victim-hood.

Now don’t get me wrong, a cheater is never a victim in any situation, it is always a choice and always a violation of  trust. However, when we place ourselves in a situation where we chose to be with somebody that puts our trust into question we are no long victim’s, but instead become participants.

We alway’s have a choice, ALWAYS. And though it may seem that leaving a relationship would just pile onto the hurt that we already feel it will be more worth it to go through that pain than the long-term emptiness that comes from a lack of self-esteem.

The Cast

Now, the first and most obvious step in your healing process is to leave the relationship completely, regardless of how long you have been in the relationship you cannot start healing until you are out of it completely.

You do not have to be resentful, nor hold a grudge towards the person who broke your trust; nor should you stick around and try to fix them. Instead you must look at their infidelity as the spotlight that pointed out your own repressed insecurities

There is simply no way of getting to the root cause of your lack of self-worth if you are still distracted by the symptoms. Fully realize that the one who hurt you will not always be the one to fix you, in fact they cannot; only you can.

Once you have stepped away from the relationship you can begin to look at all the reasons you stayed in the first place; these mindsets will reveal to you what it is that needs repairing within your own self beliefs.

You can only see your weaknesses once you seek them out, and once they are blatant you can begin to work on them. This is not a fast process by any stretch of the imagination, and will have to be something you go through. Getting into another relationship will only distract you from the self work that needs to take place.

Ironically, howevr, the only way to truly see if the broken bone has actually healed over is by seeing how you react to a relationship in which your trust has been violated once again, or a lack of respect is present. If you stay stay you still have some work to do, if you are now whole.

So, tell me, have you been putting any band aid’s on your broken bones. And if you have, tell me about?

-Tinashe Hwande






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